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CBJ Report: Watts Group proposing another mixed-use project in IRL

The company, which has been one of the most active players in development, has proposed a four-story building for a lot north of Scratch Cupcakery. The "Building D" project would include ground-floor retail, second-floor office space and residential space on the third and fourth floors, according to a letter of intent reviewed by the Coralville City Council Sept. 12.

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Watts Group proposing another mixed-use project in IRL

Watts Group is proposing another mixed-use building for a high-traffic site in Coralville's Iowa River Landing development.

The company, which has been one of the most active players in development, has proposed a four-story building for a lot north of Scratch Cupcakery. The "Building D" project would include ground-floor retail, second-floor office space and residential space on the third and fourth floors, according to a letter of intent reviewed by the Coralville City Council Sept. 12.

The project will be the fourth in IRL for Watts Group, which is currently in the process of constructing a mixed-use building that will bring 37 condominiums and 16,000 square feet of new commercial space to a site west of Backpocket Brewing. The firm previously developed The Landing, a new Watts building on Ninth Street in the IRL that combines more than 60 condos with ground-floor commercial space.

The city council set Oct. 23 as the deadline for alternate proposals to be submitted to acquire the lot north of Scratch , and an Oct. 24 public hearing on the sale of the lot. Watts Group would pay $240,000 for the property if selected.

United Fire Group to sell life insurance unit

Cedar Rapids-based United Fire Group Inc. today announced a $280 million agreement to sell the United Life Insurance Company business it has operated for 55 years to Kuvare US Holdings Inc.

Kuvare was founded in 2015 by insurance executive Dhiren Jhaveri, and offers life insurance and annuity products through its subsidiaries. The holding company's growth strategy is backed by a consortium of long-term capital firms collectively managing more than $20 billion. With the acquisition, Chicago-based Kuvare has pro forma consolidated assets of more than $2.5 billion.

"The decision to sell our life subsidiary to Kuvare was made in the best interest of UFG, its shareholders and United Life, from both a business perspective and a personal perspective," UFG President and CEO Randy Ramlo said in a statement. "By selling United Life to Kuvare, we have established a solid future for our life insurance employees, insurance agents and customers, while allowing us to continue to build on the success of our property and casualty operations."

Mr. Ramlo said Kuvare is committed to the growth of United Life and has the resources and expertise to propel the company forward.

Mr. Jhaveri stated in a press release that "United Life's exceptional people, deep distribution relationships and complementary product portfolio will enhance our ability to continue to provide outstanding service to our clients and distribution partners." He said Kuvare looks forward to building on United Life's success and supporting its next phase of growth.

The sale is expected to close in the first half of 2018.

Marion Process Solutions planning expansion

An expansion project planned by Marion Process Solutions will create a state-of-the-art test facility and be home to Marion Performance Group, its newly formed parts and services team.

Marion Process Solutions specializes in the design and manufacturing of custom horizontal mixers for the food, chemical, mineral, plastics and biomass markets. The expansion would add 6,100 square feet to its existing campus with the capital investment estimated at $1.8 million.

The project at 3575 Third Ave., Marion, is contingent upon regulatory approval and governmental approval of tax-based financial assistance. The Marion City Council will consider approval and local match of an application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) on Sept. 21.

Marion Process Solutions will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2018. Its products are used in 73 countries and on six continents. Customers include global brands such as ADM, General Mills, MonoSol, McCormick, Keurig, GE, Colorbiotics and 3M. The new test facility will allow global customers to test their solutions on-site, and help them identify the optimal configuration for their mixer solution. The space will also support a growing sales team for Marion Performance Group.

"Marion Process Solutions exists to create a competitive advantage for our customers and the new test lab will be a wonderful asset in raising our bar of excellence," President and CEO Lee Eilers stated in a press release.

Marion Economic Development Corp. (MEDCO) partnered with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance to prepare an application for Iowa's High Quality Jobs Program for the project, which will be considered by the IEDA board of directors Sept. 22.

Pending approval of the state application, construction could begin this fall. The expansion is expected to create a minimum of three high quality jobs over the next three years. Marion Process Solutions currently has 55 employees in Marion.

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